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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
INTERVIEWEE: Mrs. Claudie Mae Hamilton
INTERVIEWER: Steve Kerber
DATE: January 25, 1979
K: Today is Thursday, January 25, 1979. My name is Steve Kerber, and I
am going to be conducting an oral history interview with Mrs. Claudie
Mae Hamilton. Mrs. Hamilton was formerly a member of the custodial
staff at the Florida State Museum at the University of Florida. This
interview for the University of Florida's Oral History Project will take
place in the Ford Library of the Florida State Museum, at 10:00 a.m.
I'm going to ask you mostly questions about the university, but
I'm going to ask you also a few personal questions about your own back-
ground before we get up to your starting at the university. First
of all I'm going to ask you to tell me your full name.
H: Claudie Mae Hamilton.
K: What's your mailing address, Mrs. Hamilton?
H: It's 911 Northeast Twenty-second Terrace, Gainesville, and my zip Ccode]
K: During what years altogether did you work for the university?
H: When I first came to Gainesville in the last part of 1946, I worked at
the Gainesville Laundry. That is where G. C. Murphy's is sitting now.
That's where the laundry was. I worked there until May. It got too
hot in there for me; I couldn't stand heat. So I had to leave; I just
couldn't stand it. My husband was working for the duplicating department
out here on the university campus, for Mr. Barnes. He saw Mr. W. W. Green. He asked him about a job for me out here. Mr. Green told
him to bring me out here. So Mr. Green hired me. When he hired me,
he put me in Flint Hall.
K: That was in '46, right?
H: No, this here was in '47, in June. I worked there in Flint Hall for
twenty-one years. In those twenty-one years, I had some experience of
different things that happened.
K: I'll bet.
H: Yeah. Some are the students, mostly students, 'cause there wasi't anything
going to school out here but boys. Nothing but men, no women. Four or
five different departments was in Flint Hall at that particular time.
It was botany, bacteriology, geology, geography, and biology. All of
those was housed in Flint at that time I worked there. All of those
different departments was housed in this one building.
Dr. [Sigismond de R.] Diettrich was head of the geography department.
I found a soft place in the floor. I don't know what kind of nationality
he was, but he went on so till they had to hurry up and get him out of
there. He just knowed the building was going to fall down on him in it.
So they moved him out first; they condemned the building. They moved the
different departments all different places they could to house them.
They tore the insides of Flint out. They run steel beams through it and
rebuilt it. When they rebuilt it, then all but zoology couldn't go back
in, none of the rest. Then they moved part of the biology back in. The
other parts, such as labs, they let them stay in Building J where they
housed them when they first moved out.
K: Was that the wooden building that's right next to Flint?
H: No, that's Building I.
K: Where was Building J?
H: Building J was off across from the--well, I don't know what they call
the building now, but I believe they called it the old Florida Union
Building. Do you know the name of that building?
K: Yes, they call that Arts and Sciences now.
K: Florida Union.
H: That used to be the Florida Union Building. Building J sit over to the
left of it across the street between it and what is the bank now. It
used to was the post office.
K: Did you work for the university from that time straight through?
K: All the way through until...?
H: From '47 to '77.
K: You retired in 1977, right?
H: June 3.
K: I'm going to back up a little bit and then bring you back to that. Would
you tell me when and where you were born, Mrs. Hamilton?
H: I was born in Homerville, Georgia, June 22, 1912. But I didn't grow up
K: Before you go into that, tell me your mother's name and your father's
H: My mother's name, Lizzie Allen, and my father was named Will Allen.
K: How long did you live there in Georgia? When did your family move
H: I was too little to remember. When they moved from Georgia I was too
small to remember. When I got large enough to remember, we was
living at a little place in Florida called White Springs. My mother had
two sisters who didn't have any children. When I got up to be a big
girl, then I would live with these aunts that didn't have any children
a certain length of time. Then I'd go back to my mother.
K: Did they also live around White Springs?
H: No, one of them lived in Homerville, Georgia, and the other one lived
in Waycross, Georgia.
K: Do you come from a large family? How many other children did your folks
H: My mother just raised me. She had six others, but she didn't raise no
one but me.
K: Did you have the chance to go to school in White Springs or in any of
H: I went to school in White Springs. I started to school in White Springs.
After my mother and my father separated, my mother lived in a place they
called Watertown, Florida. When I was living with her, I would go to
school there. When school would be out, if I wanted to go to stay with
some of my aunts, I would tell her and she would let me go on and live
with them. So I got my education from Florida to Georgia.
K: Could you tell me a little bit about your life between the time you got
to be a teenager, when you got married, and how you came to live in
Gainesville or back in this area?
H: I came to Hawthorne. People was talking about how much you could make
picking beans and things. I came down in this part as a single person.
I didn't have no husband. I didn't have any husband at all. So I met
the man that I has now for a husband, and I and him got married.
K: About when was that?
H: We married March 9, 1947.
K: What's your husband's name?
H: My husband's named Canary Hamilton.
K: Is he from Hawthorne originally?
H: He is from a little place called Lloyd, Florida. It's about eighteen
miles from Tallahassee back this way.
K: When you married him, he was already working here at the university?
H: Yes, he was.
K: About how long had he been working here, do you know?
H: No. Me and him never did discuss it. He was carrying mail exams, and
things like that over the campus, and letters and things like that from
the duplicating department. He rode a bicycle.
K: Do you remember where that duplicating department was located?
H: The duplicating department was located down there back of where the
engineer building is at now. All of that area down in there along in
then was the physical plant.
When I was hired out here, I had to go down there. I went to a
little bitty building sitting out, not too far from the street. It had
a big old chimney pipe run up which we called the smokestack.
K: That's where Mr. Green's office was?
H: No, that was where the man that hired us--Mr. Stryker was the one that
wrote everybody up when they was hired. After I was signed up and all,
I worked that morning. I went down there and got signed up. Then I come
back to Flint and finished out eight hours. After the death of W. W.
Green--he died in 1953--the man that was his assistant, Clyde Dickinson,
just messed up somehow or another. I don't know how it happened, but
some kind of way some of our hiring sheets got misput some kind of way.
He came to me and asked me when was I hired out here. I told him June
2, 1947. He tried to get me for seven years. He sure did. But happened
I had a little piece of paper that a secretary over in Tigert Hall, but
along in them times that building wasn't there. They was housed in Ander-
son Hall, and they called that Language Hall. I don't know how I come
by this piece of paper, or what caused me to get it. It's been so long
I can't remember. But I kept the pieceof paper. Mr. Clyde Dickinson
tried to take these years away from me. I mentioned it to Mr. Marvin
Bass. He had taken this piece of paper and carried it to this lady. She
said, "Yes, that's my handwriting and that is my name, and she had to be
working out here for me to give her that slip of paper."
K: That took care of it.
H: That took care of it because they knowed that she couldn't give me this
piece of paper unless I had been working. Not hired, but working. Mr. Marvin Bass
came back to me, brought the piece of paper. He told me,
"Claudie Mae, you hang on to this piece of paper as long as you work
out here; you hang on to this piece of paper." He said, "Because
Clyde Dickinson tried to mess you up, and if you hadn't had this
piece of paper they would have took that time from you."
K: Did they give you any kind of a test or an examination of any kind?
H: When I was hired?
K: When you were being hired?
K: Did they ask you any questions?
H: They asked me the question: had I ever been arrested. Let me see what
else. There was something else, but it covered the general activity
of a person. He wanted to know would I give the state the kind of work
that was required of me. I told him yes. Then after I got hired,
everything was working along nicely.
Professor EJoshua Clifton] Dickinson [Instructor of Biology] and
Dr. [Pierce] Brodkorb [Assistant Professor of Biological Science] was
sharing their offices together. When they condemned the building,
Professor Dickinson decided that he would leave and go and get his
doctorate degree. So he was down in a little old temporary building,
a little old board building. They called it Building 0. He told me,
"I'm gonna be gone about a year or so." He said, "Don't you let them
cockroaches bite my books." I said, "Well, I'll do what I can to keep
them away." I felt when I was hired, I wasn't just hired to work, but
I was hired with responsibility, too. I had a responsibility to the
professors; I had a responsibility to the secretaries to a certain extent.
If it was something that they asked me to do and it was a little bit out
of my line of work and it wasn't nothing that was so hard to do, I
would do it and would try to do my best when I done it. But wait a
minute, let me go back.
Before they condemned Flint Hall there was a man, I believe he had
got to be the head of the department or something. His name was Dr.
[Charles Francis] Byers [Professor of Biology and Geology]. He had a
secretary. I don't know what ailed that girl, I never could figure her
out. I had half of Flint. The man that worked in the building with
me had the other half. He'd sweep one hall, I'd sweep another hall.
There were three floors. Me and him both would push the basement floor
together. So this girl sent this student to me. He come up to me and
he said, "Claudie Mae, Miss Silvia says unlock Dr. [Edmund] Ruffin
Jones's [Associate Professor of Biology] office. I left my notes in
there." I said, "You did?" I said, "Don't you know this here is final
examination time and you wasn't supposed to leave your notes in his office?"
I said, "I'm not supposed to open no doors for nobody." He said, "Well,
she said to open it for me." I said, "Well, I'll open it on these terms.
That I'm going in there with you, and I'm going to...." I said, "He will
not put your notes on his desk." I said, "So don't go nowhere about
his desk. They might would be, maybe in one of his chairs, but not on
his desk." Well, I stayed in there with him. So he just hung around
in there a little bit and he came out running. When he got outside of
that door, boy, he turned it, I mean he went there running. There was
azaleas running from the Flint front door to Anderson Hall on both sides
of the sidewalk. They was about four or four and a half feet high.
He jumped them. I run behind him down the hall; I run behind him to see
what was he up to. He ran and he hopped over them azaleas and he didn't
touch a leaf. I said, "Gosh!" He was tall, you know. He went and got
a little short one, and he come back. He lied to me, he said, "Claudie
Mae, this here's the guy that left them notes in Dr. Jones's office."
I said, "You mean to tell me both of y'all left one set of notes?" I
said, "That's impossible, ain't it." He said, "Well, I thought I did."
I said, "Oh, I see, you thought you did. But he done it." He said,
"Yeah." I said,. "Uh huh." I said, "Well, I'll tell you, I'm gonna open
it one more time and that's gonna be it."
But you had to go through the lab part to get to his office. I
throwed the lock in the outside door. They thought I was unlocking it,
but I was turning the lock back. I was standing up there talking to them
when I heard the tall one stuck his finger in the lock and pushed it in.
I heard it when it clicked. I said, "Humph!" I said, "Now you all has
got plenty of sense. I ain't been to college, I just went part of the way
through high school." I said, "But I'm gonna show you it don't take an
education to have some common sense. It just takes common sense." So I
didn't say nothing to them. When they come out, he said, "Well, here's
two dollars for being so nice." He hands me two one-dollar bills and they
went on out down the hall out the front door. I went in the janitor's
room. I wasn't far from Dr. Jones's office. I was just across the hall
from it, and you could see them darting backwards and sidewards across
the door to catch the hall empty. Then they was gonna come in. So I
stayed in the janitor's room. So when I come out of the janitor's room, I
stood and made sure that they was out. They was going across towards the
bookstore when I come out of the janitor's room. They gave the outside
door a pull. I knowed-when that door shut, they wasn't gonna get in.
I kept straight up the stair steps on up to the top floor. Then I went
in Dr. CAlbert Middleton] Laessle'sFAssociate Professor of Biology and
Geology] office and was looking out the window at them down there prancing
backwards and sidewards. So when they caught the hall empty, they went
in there. They couldn't get in because I had the outside door locked.
Dr. Jones's office was secured because they couldn't get in. So unlocking
the door didn't help them a bit.
K: Yeah, served them right.
H: After they left, I went upstairs. I went to Dr. Byers's office. I asked
her, "What do you mean by sending that student to me?" She said, "To
get his notes." I said, "He ain't left no notes in there." "How do
you know." I said, "Because I know he didn't get any out of there. He
didn't find none in there." I said, "He didn't come in there looking for
no notes. You know he didn't either." I said, "He come in there to see
if he could get his hands on the final examination paper." I said, "But
I had more sense than you and him. Because I saw to him not getting it."
I said, "As long as you stay here and be Dr. Byers's secretary, don't you
never send nobody to me no more. Never!" I said, "Don't you do it. And
you quit throwing them lit cigarettes in that trash can in that paper thing
in the women's bathroom." I said, "You're gonna throw your cigarettes
in there, you make sure you done put them out before you put them in thereI"
So by that time they all went to hush it up. Dr. [Lewis] Berner [Assistant
Professor of Biological Science] came up and Dr. Bryers came. Dr. Bryers
looked at me and he said, "Well, what's going on, Claudie Mae?" I said,
"Sylvia there sent a student to me for me to unlock Dr. Ruffin Jones's
office for him to get in there, talking about he left notes in there."
I said, "He didn't leave nothing in there." He looked at her. He said,
"Well, Sylvia, as long as you work in Flint Hall, don't you ever bother
Claudie Mae again." He said,"'Cause she knows more about what she's
doing than you'll ever dare to know. So don't bother her any more.
Don't send nobody to her." She wasn't there too much longer after then
before she quit or he fired her or something. But I know she left there.
If I hadn't a been a thinking person, he would have gotten what he was
But even the graduate students, I talked to them just like they was
my children. I said, "Now, I tell you what you'd better do. You'd better
start at the beginning of the term when that professor get up there and
get to talking about things," I said, "you better go to taking your notes."
I said, "Now, if you keep up with him, when the end comes, you won't be
behind." I said, "But if you gonna sit up there and read Alligators,
run up and down the streets over half of the night and set up in the class-
room and sleep, you don't know what the professor's sayingI"
K: That's for sure.
H: I said, "And then when the final examination time comes, then you worry."
K: That's right.
H: I said, "Don't do that." I said, "Your parents ain't got money to throw
away like that."
K: Mrs. Hamilton, did they ask you to take any kind of a medical examination
when they signed you up?
K: Not at all?
H: Not at all.
K: Do you mind telling me howmuch money they offered you to start?
H: I made eighty-five dollars a month, and I made forty-four hours a week.
I'd work five days, Monday through Saturday, twelve o'clock.
K: Was that the normal schedule for all the custodial people?
H: Everybody in the janitorial department. I was making eighty-five in
that day. Well now, the women was getting eighty-five, the men was
getting ninety-five because they had to put in light bulbs, and they
allowed them ten more dollars than us.
K: I know you worked in Flint Hall for that long period of time.
H: Uh huh.
K: You left that building in '68, did you say?
H: Uh huh.
K: Where did you work between that time and the time that this building
H: I worked over in Building I.
K: Which one was that?
H: Back of Flint.
K: The one next to Flint?
H: The old wooden building back of Flint.
K: On University Avenue.
H: Uh huh. I worked there--what you mean between the times that the building
was under construction rebuilding?
K: I mean between the time that you stopped working in Flint Hall and the
time you started working here in this museum building.
H: I was working Building I. I had all of Building I and the top floor in
Flint. Mr. [Hart] Wright somehow didn't like me. Along in them times
they would do nasty things to people. So he thought that he'd give me
all of Building I and the top floor inFlint and took the man and sent
him over to Bartram Hall. But that didn't satisfy nobody. So then
stuff went to getting misput. Some of it got thrown out, because the
janitors didn't know what they were doing. They'd look at a model and
just say it was trash. But I knew better. I knowed that it wasn't no
trash. So Miss Jack called Mr. Clyde Dickinson--called the superintendent
and told him that anything else gets broken or misplaced or misput, that
he was going to have to pay for it. That was putting pressure on him, too.
So rather than have the pressure on him, he sent me to Bartram Hall.
I worked over to Bartram Hall. I've forgotten just how long. I worked
over there about seven years. Then they said we can get better work
done by letting the people come in at night when everybody is gone and
clean up. That's when the sorriest work was done and still is. It used
to be times that you could walk down any hall out here and could see your
shadow up against the wall from the bright floor you was walking on.
But now you can't see your shadow, don't care, no less than from a light.
The buildings is filthy. They don't be kept like they used to. They
paying more money now than they were back in them days.
K: You think a lot of that is because they do so much of the work at night
H: Yes. They got too many chiefs and not enough Indians. They got too many
bossmen and not enough people to do the work. The people that is doing
the work, they got them overloaded; and they say, "Well, to heck with all
of it." They go somewhere and go to sleep. When I was working over in
Bartram Hall, when I was coming in at seven o'clock, it was my job. I
had to unlock the doors in Bartram Hall, unlock the classrooms. Plenty
of time that blackboard wasn't even touched. They wasn't clean. I'd
go over to this new building back over here--what they call it?
H: Psychology. I'd have to go over there, unlock those doors where the
students could get in, check the bathrooms. I had to go over this
agriculture building over here.
K: Rogers Hall?
H: Right. I had to go over there and unlock those doors. But it was a
girl that was working in there. She told me, "Claudie Mae, this is
simply too damn much for you to do in the morning." She said, "Don't
you come over here to Rogers Hall unlocking their doors if you got to
unlock it over to Bartram Hall and down to Psychology. Don't you come
here." She said, "I'll unlock them," and she did. She said, "What
they trying to do to you?" I said, "I don't know that." I said, "Well,
when you see them, you ask them."
K: When did they move you over to this building?
H: Well, let me see....
K: Was it as soon as the building...?
H: Have mercy, no, this building here, Professor Dickinson tried to get me
to say I'd come here when they was digging out round here, digging the
foundation. But I told him that I'd better wait. I said, "I'll stay on
over to Bartram Hall because there's some people in Bartram Hall that I
has been knowing as long as I have been there. That's right."
K: People who used to be in Science Hall.
H: People who used to be in Science Hall. Dr. Archie Carr [Professor of
Biological Science], Dr. Pierce Brodkorb, Dr. Lewis Berner and--wait
a minute, there's some more of them. But anyway, I felt like I owed them
that much, to stay there with them.
When they got through building the museum, Thomasina went on vaca-
tion. Mr. Wright meant to get me out of Bartram Hall. What he had
against me, I'll never know. One thing about it, if you ain't right,
you are wrong. You can't be twixt and between, you got to be either one
or the other. Mr. Wright didn't like me. I didn't care too much for him
either. What I had against him I told him. I told him to his face. I
didn't get behind his back; I told him. I said, "Man, in the soul I
seen God looking at you." I said, "He say he gonna pay according to
your worth." I said, "And then the Good Book teach you that it is better
that a mill stone is hung about your neck and you drowned in the depths
of the sea than to offend one of God's least ones. You don't know who
God's least one is." I said, "And that behooves you to let everybody alone
that say they knowed Christ." He went to having his downfalls. He went
out to one of the inspectors' house, out to Micanopy, out in there some-
where, riding a motorcycle. Motorcycle caught a limb. He went to duck
under the limb, the limb caught him under the neck and dragged him off
the motorcycle. He got hurt. He was able to come hobbling back. I
told him, "You better mind how you treat people, 'cause you gonna reap
what you sow." I said, "You ain't gonna reap it after you leave here,
Mr. Wright. You gonna reap that thing right down here where you done it
at." I said, "And your way of living, you stop it!" I said, "Treat
people like they are humanl" I said, "All these other men come'from that;
one man." He looked at me. He must have knowed I knowed what I was
talking about. When he worked up to the Seagle Building, he fell down
He [Paul Morris] took on Mr. Wright. Then he went over to the
infirmary. He told the doctor just to say Mr. Wright wasn't gonna be
able to come back to work, and if he come back he'd be responsible for him.
Mr. Paul Morris told him he wasn't gonna be responsible for nobody, so you
just have to go on. He said, "All I can do is be responsible for myself."
So that just got Mr. Wright out of the way.
Mr. Wright went to work. Mr. Morris got tired of the way Mr. Wright
was doing. I worked here in Thomasina's [Townsend] place. When Thomasina
come back, Mr. Wright was intending to move Thomasina. He was intending
to send Thomasina over to Tigert Hall. He sent me over to the girls'
gym. He was just messing up, when Professor Dickinson found it out. So
he asked Lottie, "Lottie, where's Claudie Mae?" And Lottie told him.
"She's over to the girls' gym." So he asked her, "Well, what's she doing
over there? She said, "Well, Mr. Wright sent her over there." He said,
"Well, he may have sent her over there, but she ain't staying over there."
So he called Mr. Morris. Mr. Morris told Mr. Wright, "You's the one done
it, you go!" Mr. Morris just got tired of Mr. Wright getting him in hot
H: You.get tired of people throwing you in hot water all the time. You
want to get rid of them, right?
H: That morning when I come back to work, Mr. Wright told me, "Claudie Mae,
get the keys to the museum," and told Loretta, "You get the keys for
the girls' gym." Now mind you that girl had never been in the girls'
gym in her life. She didn't know one thing to do in there. But he
sent her there. All he was after was getting Professor Dickinson off
of his neck, getting me back here.
K: Would youtell me the things that you did over in Flint Hall? In other
words, what your job consisted of?
H: My job consisted of cleaning classrooms, sweeping classrooms, blackboards,
kept chalk, kept the floor clean, and in the labs, kept the tables clean,
kept the floor clean, kept the sink clean, kept down dust. That was my
routine, and sweep the stairs.
K: Did you have to do anything at all outside the building?
H: No, nothing outside.
K: Just everything inside.
H: Everything inside.
K: During that whole period that youworked there, were there just the two
H: Just the two of us worked in Flint.
K: Was it always the same man?
H: No, I can't even recall all their names. When I started to working there,
a man was working there by the name of Isaac Scott. Then he left, and
a man by the name of Tom Moore come in. He worked there with me awhile.
After Tom Moore there was a man by the name of Freeman Fields, he worked
there. After Freeman Fields, it was another man by the name of--what was
that child's name? Thomas Malical.
But Freeman Fields was the only one that I had any trouble out of.
He'd go up the hall and sweep up cigarette butts in a pile. He'd leave
them there. So I told him one day, "Fields, if you ain't gonna take
them up, don't sweep them up. Just let them stay mashed where the stu-
dents mash them at." I said, "You ain't fooling nobody when you take
the broom and just pile them up." I said, "They think if you got sense
enough to pile them up, you got sense enough to take them up." That was
before Mr. Green died. He called Mr. Green and told Mr. Green that he
wanted him to come in and pick him up. Mr. Green thought it was something
Fields had up his sleeves. So he come over there one day and he talked
with me about it. He said, "Claudie Mae, how about next time Fields
calls me, I'm gonna tell him 'yeah."' I said, "Do it, and find out
what he's up to, 'cause that's the only way you'll know." I told him,
"You's a fool." I said, "Now that man know you supposed to be working."
I said, "You ain't running no cab company." I said, "And there's a
big city bus run right through town. Mr. Green have all day to catch
that bus and come out here, and don't have to pay but a dime." I said,
"What are you?" I said, "You have to burn up more than ten cents worth
of gas going at him. You quit calling that man." I said, "That man
been getting out here all these years. Now he just get out and you just
want to go and get him?" I said, "Ain't nobody no fool."
So sure enough he called Mr. Green; Mr. Green told him yeah. So
on their way back out here, Mr. Green say, "Fields, what is it you got up
your sleeves you want to ask me? It must be something against Claudie
Mae, 'cause if it wasn't now you would've done told me." He say, "Yes,
Mr. Green, what about putting me and my wife in Flint Hall and put her
somewhere else." So Mr. Green told him, "Fields, I don't believe in saying
all kinds of words." He said, "But I'm fixing to tell you something now."
He say, "Hell, no! I can move you and nobody'll ever ask for you." He
said, "But if I move her for you, I'll be in hot water up to my eyes. Hell,
no, I ain't touching Claudie Mae. Claudie Mae can stay at Flint Hall till
she die, I ain't bothering her. It pays all the rest of them best to
leave her off too, 'cause them professors thinks ain't nobody can do the
work that she do, have the responsibilities that she has, and carry it
out like she carries it out. The best thing you'd better do is leave her
alone. Don't you get in hot water with them saying I don't want to get
in no more than what I have got in and I don't intend to get in no more."
He said, "Now, if you're gonna work, where do I move you?" So he moved
H: Put another man there in his place named Cleve. Cleve worked with me
a long time. Then they got another man to work there after Cleve left.
They got another man to work there with me. This man, I don't think,
couldn't have had good sense. He was kind of an alcoholic, I'd call it.
Because it had to be at least six men. He worked the basement and the
first floor. I worked the top floor. I would go over to Building J 'cause
that's where all our labs then were, in the stock room. They bought him
some liquor, 'cause I know he didn't have any when he punched in. I
didn't smell it on him. Anybody hate it any worse than I do. They'll
smell it on a person before they get any closer. They ain't got to get
right up to them. I know he didn't have none, but when I got over there
that morning, he was saying funny things and looking stupid. So I asked
him, "What is with you?" "Nothing." I said, "Oh, yes it is." I said,
"What's wrong with you?" "Nothing." He had unlocked a door in the fish
range, that was in the basement. Dr. [Carter Rowell] Gilbert [Assistant
Curator of Ichthyology, Florida State Museum, Assistant Professor of
Zoology] was over the fish range. They took six diving tanks out of there.
Them things is what you put on your back. Oxygen tanks is what you call
them. Anyhow he took six of them. They didn't want me to know it, and
they kept right on.
I kept seeing the law coming around there. So I got to wondering.
When they'd leave I'd ask him, "What that police is come in here for?"
I said, "What is you doing?" He said, "I ain't doing nothing." I said,
"Now you have to be doing something." So I went over to the stock room,
and I made it my business to go over there. I asked Miss Mila Jack,
"What's going on in Flint?" She said, "What, Claudie Mae?" I said, "I
see the cops over there all the time." I said, "And they don't say
nothing to me; they don't pay me no attention." I said, "What's going
on?" She said, "Well, Claudie, we didn't want you to know it because
we know you didn't have nothing to do with it. We didn't want you
bothered about it." I said, "Well, what?" She said, "Somebody went
in the fish range and took out six of them tanks. They couldn't--it had
to be six men or they had to make two trips if it was three because they
couldn't tote two of them." I said, "What you say?" She said, "Well
now, go ahead, don't let it bother you. 'Cause it happened three or four
weeks ago. We didn't want you to know it because we knowed it would
bother you, and you ain't responsibile for what that man does." I said,
"Oh, my God."
I went back over there to Flint, and I just went all up and down him.
I said, "Man, didn't I tell you don't unlock no door for nobody?" I
said, "I told you that a dozen times." I said, "You's a fool and didn't
know what I was talking about." "Yeah, I know what you was talking about.
Yeah, I know." I said, "No, you must have didn't." "Yeah, I did." I
said, "Oh no, you didn't." I said, "Now you didn't have no business
unlocking them doors." I said, "And you unlocked them doorsand you left."
I said, "I don't unlock the door for nobody." I said, "And I've been
out here a heck of a long time longer than you and I don't unlock the
door for nobody, even them absent-minded professors when they forget and
leave their key home and they come in there and ask me to unlock the door
for them. I ride them a while before I unlock it. Tell them to tie a
little string around their finger or something or other to remind them
to put their keys in their hat. When they pick up their hat, they have
their keys and all that." I said, "You is stupid and I got to tell you."
He said, "Well, it ain't on your back." I said, "I know it ain't on my
back, it's on yours because them people didn't even want me to know it."
I said, "'Cause they know that I know better. I don't open no door for
nobody." I said, "'Cause if he's supposed to go in there, he's supposed
to have a key." I said, "And if it ain't somebody that I personally know,
then they don't get in."
So I tell you, ain't but the one way you can make a success on the job.
There's two things you got to do. I don't mean it's just for outside show.
Outside show ain't no good. You got to be interested in your job. You
have to have a mind to do a good job. If you do that, then everything will
fall in place. I have never had my feelings hurt out here when there wasn't
nothing going to school out here but boys. I didn't have no trouble with
none of them. Didn't none of them bother me.
When I went up to Tallahassee, I went in an office there. It was a student
sitting up in there. He knowed me but I didn't know him. He had taken
a course in Flint Hall. He said, "Hey, little hummer," 'cause I always
would be humming on some kind of song. It wasn't loud enough to disturb
nobody, but I'd just be humming, going on about my business.
K: That's nice. Did you know Mr. [Thompson] Van Hyning, the old man who
was the director of the museum, from Flint? I think he retired about '46
or '48 when the museum....
H: I heard them talking about him.
K: What did you hear them say about him? What did they think of him?
H: The museum was so small because they had some of it in the hallway of
Flint, up on the second floor. They had different things in showcases
for the students to look at. It's been so long but that name sure do
ring a bell. I did hear them talking about him, but I can't remember what
it was that they were saying. He had to be a nice man.
K: But there was still some stuff from the museum in Flint Hall when you
H: Yes, it was. It was two little babies of three months in little jars.
They had several things in the hall in them showcases.up and down the hall
on the second floor. There wasn't none in the basement, wasn't none up
on the second floor. But on the first floor where the students would come
in, that's where it was. They had showcases up against the wall where
they had some of it. Students would pass and be looking at it and reading
it and all that kind of stuff.
But I did hear that name about Mr. [Van] Hyning. I don't think I'd
been working out here no more than about two weeks, when they had the
first graduation I remember seeing. They was lined up two by two marching
across the campus. They was going marching in the auditorium 'cause we
didn't have no gym.
K: When did they...?
H: Didn't have no Florida Field either. Florida Field has had the name.
It wasn't a thing but a hole in the ground and seats all around it. They
would build it up. When football season was over, they'd take it down.
The women's bathrooms socked behind some kind of cane reeds, some kind of
reed poles. They would keep them clipped. The women had no doors to the
bathroom. It was built in a way that the reeds was just so thick they
would hide the little bathroom. One night I was out there working. I
worked over there to the stadium for twenty-one years. For twenty-one
years I worked over to Florida Field.
K: Was this like on the day of a football game?
H: Yeah. It wasn't nothing but a hole in the ground. All the bathrooms
had them there old reeds in front of all the bathrooms. One evening I
was going around checking. I see this student all stooped over, and
he had his hand down like this here. I was wondering what the devil is
he doing down there like that? Lo and behold he's down there cutting
the water off.
K: Did they pay you extra for that?
H: Yeah, the athletic department paid us.
K: What did you do at the stadium?
H: Check women's bathrooms and try to take care of them where they couldn't
take care theirselves, carry them in and lay them on a couch.
K: I was going to ask you when they changed the hours as far as not working
on Saturday mornings.
H: They changed that in '48.
K: In '48?
H: In July, '48. They give the women a ten dollar raise. They raised them
from $85 to $95 and raised the men's from $95 to $105. They would always
get more than the ones that didn't. It wasn':t the work in it. It was,
I'd say, prejudice or something 'cause I didn't bother nobody, I really
didn't. I was so far back till the people in Tallahassee looked into it.
They seen what I was getting and seen what somebody else was getting that
hadn't been out here no longer than two years or three. They was getting
more than I were and I'd been here ever since '47. They figured all of
my stuff up and sent me a back pay check.
K: That's wonderful.
H: They sent it to Mr. Calvin Green's office not to the building service. I
don't think nobody went there but one or two of us. The people that they
couldn't push around and do them any kind of way, they give them a hard
time out here. They really did. But we all this way would have someone
standing up for us. There was no better man than Marvin Bass. He told
them, "You ought to leave Claudie Mae alone." He say, "You don't do a
thing but lie to her, try to give her a hard time saying she just walks
over the holes y'all dig." He said, "Why don't y'all leave that woman
K: Mr. Bass was with the....
H: Yes, he was with our department, but he was not the superintendent.
K: Was he under the superintendent?
H: He was under the superintendent. He couldn't do no more than tell them
what he thought.
K: Was he a black man or white?
H: No, he was white. He lives in Newberry now. Every so often I calls him
or he calls me.
K: He still lives in Newberry?
K: And he's retired, too?
K: He's not? He's still out here.
H: No, he left our department. It got so nasty over here, he left. He went
over to the....
K: Medical center?
H: No, he went over here to the farming or to the agriculture department.
That's where he's at.
K: Did you ever work other than that day shift at any of the jobs?
H: Uh huh.
K: You were always on the day shift?
H: Always. I think that's one thing they got mad at me about. When they
was trying to change me over to night, Mr. Wright told me, "Claudie Mae,
if I could get you to go to the night, I'd have it made." I told him,
"Man, night work is for the birds, it ain't for me." He looked at me,
he said, "What you mean by that?" I said, "Because God put night here
for people to sleep."
K: Were there any custodial people working at night when you started here?
H: Yes, the people that worked at night when I started to working here was
the people that scrubbed and waxed the buildings.
K: And that was all?
H: That was all.
K: That was many of all the custodial people, right?
H: No, it wasn't none of them. I mean....
K: Very few.
H: That was just the group that scrubbed and waxed the buildings. They
would scrub and wax the buildings at night.
K: Did this change come about gradually or was there a time when they made
a big change to have...?
K: About when?
H: Let me see, when was that?
K: Do you think it was back when you were still in Flint or would it have
H: No, it happened when I was over here in Bartram Hall.
K: Maybe in the sixties sometime?
H: Yeah, it was in the....
K: The late sixties?
H: Yeah, it was in the late sixties. Mr. McMilliam wanted to--well, when he
first came to be superintendent, he said he didn't want no women. He
got rid of all the women that he could get rid of. He really did. I
mean he really got rid of them.
K: He just fired them?
H: He wanted man power. Mr. Bass told him, "You're wrong. These women do
better work than the men, some of them." He said, "Now, you don't want
to get rid of the women." "Yeah, all I want is man power." He went and
laid off a bunch of women. And when he found out he didn't have enough
people to clean up the building, then he had to go back to the women.
Mr. Bass told him,"I told you don't lay off them women." He said, "There's
some women out here that'll work them men any day." When that man got
through laying off the women, I think it was five women left out here.
It was me, Mattie Malone--they'd have got her too, but she was in Tigert
Hall. She was in Tigert Hall where they couldn't do nothing to her,
'cause there they wouldn't bother her. Who else was there? Lottie [Ross].
They didn't bother her and her sister Lillie Mae. Who was that other one?
Oh, Audrilla Nelson, 'cause she worked down there to the girls' gym and
couldn't no man go in there. They had to have a woman there.
K: Did they make you wear any kind of a uniform when you started?
K: Not at the beginning?
K: When did that happen?
H: That happened in '48. Mr. Green had Belk-Lindsey order some uniforms,
but we had to buy them.
K: You had to pay for them yourself?
H: Yeah, we had to pay for them ourselves. That was the beginning of us
K: How long did they get them at Belk-Lindsey's, a long time?
H: Not too long 'cause I still had mine when they went to issuing them out
here. I still had mine that I got from Belk-Lindsey.
K: When did they start issuing them to you from here?
H: It had to be around '49 or '50. We was wearing uniforms when Mr. Green
died. He died in '53. We wore uniforms up until now. They's still
K: When you began did they have to fill out a pay card or did you have to
punch in at a time clock?
H: When I first started working out here, no. I would carry my keys home
with me. Hang them on a nail. In the mornings when I'd get up, I had
to be to work at six o'clock. I'd leave home by five-thirty. There wasn't
nobody working out here, along in those days, but the people that lived
here in town, no out-of-town workers, none, woman or man. We'd leave
home around five-thirty and we'd walk on out here on the campus.
K: Where were you living at that time? What part of town?
H: I was living out here on Northwest Seventh Avenue.
K: You walked over in the morning?
H: I could walk from home here in fifteen minutes and unlock the building,
turn on the lights, and go to cleaning up.
K: So you didn't have to fill out anything?
H: No, we didn't have no time, nothing to punch in or out. But in the last
part of '47, Mr. Green went to hiring people from out here around
Brooker. He hired a boy from New River. They was fixing up Building I.
There were thirty-two classrooms in Building I. Mr. Green asked me did
I think one person could clean Building I. I told him no. He said,
"What?" I said, "No, he couldn't do it if he was on skates." I said,
"Thirty-two classrooms and their blackboards. Get all of the dust out of
the troughs where the crayons are at." I said, "No, Mr. Green." I
said, "And if anybody tells you they can do it, they's a liar. They will
not do it." He said, "Well, Claudie Mae," he said, "now to be frank
with you," he said, "there was a man told me that he could do it if I'd
let him come to work at five o'clock." I said, "Well, you let him come
at five o'clock, but he still ain't gonna do it." He said, "You don't
reckon?" I said, "No sir." I said, "Them's too many classrooms." I
said, "And you got to clean them blackboards." I said, "Them professors
don't care how hard they hit them with that chalk. They got to get them
little white spots off of that." I said, "No, he'll never do it." He
said, "Well, we're gonna see." I said, "We sure will if we don't go
So he hired Richard Kelly. He put Richard Kelly in Building I. One
morning I was up on the second floor cleaning a classroom, and I happened
to look towards University Avenue, you know, sweeping along and humming
and having a look out the window. I saw Richard Kelly going toward
Building I, and something had been bobbling down there in the hedges under
the window. I was very much concerned about that because there wasn't
nothing out here but boys. It was around about them old anchors.
K: Anchors, yeah, the anchors.
H: I could see the hedges moving. One man said, "Go to the janitors' room,
run the water till it gets hot, get you a bucket of that hot water, and
pour it out the window. I said, "No, I ain't gonna do that." I said,
"Whoever that is down there, let them stay down there, I don't care. They
can't climb big bricks." When Richard Kelly went on over to Building I,
he opened it and turned on the lights. That was Mr. Green down there.
The thing hurt the man so bad, it hurted into his heart. He all but
cried when he come back to Flint. He come in there and he asked, I don't
know what the old boy's name was, but he asked where was me. He told him,
"She down there somewhere." So he come on down there where I was, and he
was about to cry. He said, "Claudie Mae." I said, "Sir?" He said,
"What would make people tell lies?" I said, "Mr. Green, some people is
prone to lie. It's proned in them to lie. Some of them lie to get off
the hook." He said, "Claudie Mae, you see me this morning?" I said, "I
don't know whether I saw you or no." He said, "Did you see Richard
Kelly?" I said, "Yes." He said, "When you seen Richard Kelly, what did
you do?" I said, "When I seen Richard Kelly, I looked at my watch."
He said, "You did?" I said, "I sure did." He said, "And you didn't
see me?" I said, "No." I said, "But something was downstairs bumping
into them hedges down there." I said, "I started to reach down and just
scald the devil out of whatever was down there." He said, "What?" I said,
"Yeah, I started to go get that water bucket, go in the janitors' room,
run the water till it got smoking hot, and get me a bucket full of it."
He said, "Yeah." "And up the window, and just, just out it go." He
said,"You better not scald me!" I said, "Well, you better stay out from
under these windows." He said,"I just meant to catch Richard Kelly to
see if he was telling me the truth." I said,"Well, you found out what
he told me." I said,"When you went over there after he turned on the
light, he lied and said he'd been there ever since about five or ten
minutes before five." He said, "Uh huh." I said, "He said that he was
doing all right." He said, "How did you know, where was you?" I said,
"I just know he would lie like that." He said, "Well, I'll be doggone."
He said, "Well, Claudie Mae." I said, "Sir." He said, "From now on out
when everybody comes to work, they're gonna have to write their name on
a piece of paper and what time." He said, "I'll turn this piece of paper
in to Mr. Stryker's office.
K: So that's when it started.
H: That's when it started. Richard Kelly was the cause of it. Then we
wrote our name until they got a punch clock. They set the punch clock
up in Building D. Building D was between Anderson Hall and Matherly
Hall, but it is hooked on to Anderson Hall. They put a punch clock in
there. One morning I was running a little late. I run in there and
punched my card. Everybody was gone excepting the bossmen; they were
still there in an argument. There was a little boy. He lived out there
by the Hogtown Creek or somewhere. Him and his wife and children lived
out there with his mother. They worked out here, janitor and maid.
Mr. Clyde Dickinson went out to his house looking for some boy or
another. They had a woman to keep their children while they was working.
Mr. Dickinson went out there fixing to talk. He told the woman he had a
good notion to getting out of the truck and coming in there and looking
in the house. He believed she was telling a damn lie about the boy, be-
lieved the boy was there in the house. So she told Mr. Dickinson, said,
"Well, if you believe he's in here, you get out the truck and come in
here." She said, "But I'm gonna tell you this much, if you get out that
truck and come in here, you're gonna damn sure find him before you leave
here." When this girl and her husband went home and his mama went home,
then this colored woman told them what Mr. Dickinson said, and what all
he done. Well, that made the boy mad. So that was boiling that morning,
and I happened to come out late. I just got in time enough to see the
licks passed. Wasn't but two licks passed. That little old boy was
about 4'9". He wasn't a bit higher than that; he was right down on the
dirt, but he was quite a man. There wasn't but two licks passed. He
hit Sertcy in the face and hit the floor. He broke jaw
in two places. He broke it around this side here, and broke it right in
the center. He sure broke it.They-took him up and carried him to Alachua
General Hospital. He couldn't eat for he couldn't chew. They run some
kind of gold-looking wire between his teeth to hold his jawbone up.
He couldn't chew. I was so scared that morning. Instead of going to
Flint Hall, I was going towards the auditorium, it scared me so bad. By
the time I went to go out the door, that's when the hitting come about.
They were soaring around in there with their fists balled up when I went
out. When I come to my right senses, it scared me.
K: I'll bet.
H: I come on back to Flint, and I run in there and I unlocked the door
and went in. I went upstairs to the first floor and I called up over there.
I called for my bossman. Mr. Hardy answered the phone. I said, "Mr.
Hardy, where is Mr. Sertcy? He there?" He said, "Claudie Mae, it's
been hell over here." I said, "What you mean?" He said, "Well, old
lady George, her son broke Sertcy's jawbone." I said, "No, he didn't."
He said, "Yes, he did. I don't know when Sertcy coming back to work."
But you see they kept all this mess under the cover. They wouldn't
let it come out. One secretary in Anderson Hall asked Mr. Green what
happened to Mr. Sertcy. I don't know how he got his mess of lies twisted,
but he told her that he fell or something, struck his face, and it cracked
his jawbone. When he told that woman that, I didn't.know what to say
about him. He ruined hisself with me right then, 'cause he was helping
cover it up.
K: Where did they have your paycheck when you started? Did you have to go
and pick it up or did they bring it somewhere?
H: They'd bring it to us.
K: To you?
H: They would sort all the checks out. I imagine it was in Tigert Hall. But
wherever they sorted out the checks, they would put all the ground depart-
ment checks in one stack, all the janitorial checks in another stack,
and all the secretaries' checks in a stack. But of course the professors
didn't get paid but once a month; that would be on the first of the
month. They didn't get paid like they do now. But the head of this
thing, that was terrible, because that was stealing. Mr. Clyde Dickinson
would hire all the people that couldn't write their name. He would make
it his business to look for them kind of people to hire. When he would
hire them he would, they'd have to work a month before they drawed a two-
weeks' check. Them boys couldn't write, would make a "X" on their check.
Did you know he would let them make a "X" on their check? When he found
out they couldn't do nothing but make a "X," he'd run that person off.
Somebody punched the card right on. I knowed it was two men. I can't
say that it was any more; it could have been more. But I knowed he was
punching in and out down here in Building E in the back. It was two men
come from Tallahassee. You couldn't get one of them bossmen to that
building. They would not go there.
Them men were here. They went in the personnel office, had the personnel
department to write everybody's name down that worked in our department.
Everybody was working together excepting the waxers at night. They got
all the names. They had set a table outside and two chairs. You'd walk
up to one chair and you'd call your name. I'd say Claudie Mae Hamilton.
He'd look down to the H's and then he'd check my name off. This man
over here would hand me my check. It was three checks. They tell me it
might have been more, but they said it was three. Three checks was left
there, and their cards had been punched in and out. Along in then we
punched four times a day. We'd punch in the morning, we'd punch out at
ten o'clock, we'd punch back in at twelve o'clock, and then we would punch
back out at four o'clock. All three of them checks, them cards had been
punched. The men took checks and them time cards back to Tallahassee.
K: When had they moved that over to Building E? Do you remember?
H: To Building E?
K: When did they move the time clock business in there?
H: They moved us so much. We was in bad shape. Everytime you turn around
they was moving us. One time there was some temporary buildings where
the students used to live.
K: The Flavets?
H: No, it wasn't the Flavet, it was just where single students stayed in some
old temporary buildings off there from the bank now. It was back in
there. It used to be a whole heap of dorms down in there.
One homecoming I came out here that Saturday morning to work. I
didn't know them devilish boys. I don't know what happened. A crowd
of them must have been together. It had to be more than two or three
dared the other one thathe wouldn't go in the Florida Union Building naked.
Oh, my Lord. I was passing the Florida Union Building fixing to go down
to the Florida Field. I heard the women in there, "Oh, oh, oh!" By that
time he run out the side door and headed back towards the dorms just as
naked as my hand. He didn?:t have a thread of clothes on. They called
the campus cop. By the time they got there, he had all the chance in the
world to have his clothes on. When they got out there, they said, "You
seen a naked student running this way?" Well, you know good and well they
wasn't gonna say yeah. They was gonna say, "No, we ain't seen nobody."
Nobody couldn't make them change.
K: That's right.
H: I walked on around by Building J. I sat on them steps, and you talk about
laughing, that was the funniest naked person I ever seen in my life running.
He looked a mess. They didn't care nothing about what they'd done 'cause
there wasn't nothing going out here but them. They didn't care.
K: Did they give you any vacation time when you started?
H: We worked a year then they would give you ten days vacation with pay. We
got one sick day a month. At the end of the year they would give us three
days for emergency. That didn't come against nothing, sick leave or
vacation. They would give us them three emergency days out of the year.
The people didn't care nothing about that unless it was something very
important that they had to just get right on off and do. It had to be
an emergency for them to think about it.
As I went on to tell you, something come up about them checks.
Somebody had to punch them cards in and out, 'cause it was punched four
times. Well, somebody had to punch them. They wouldn't hop in that
clock themselves. I don't know what they done about it, but you never
could hear nothing. It was a hush-hush thing. Mattie come over to Flint
one day and she told me, "Ham, I got to do something." I said, "You got
to do what?" She said, "A lady in Tigert Hall, one of the secretaries
in Tigert Hall, told me to give Mr. Dickinson that key that Ihad to them
Kotex boxes." I said, "Well, I tell you what you do." She said, "What?"
I said, "You give him that darn key." I said, "Don't be a fool. You
give that man that key and don't you take it back. Just tell him you
push it off on something, that you got to have some yesterday when you
couldn't do it or something." I said, "Tell him anything, just don't
take the key back."
She was trying to track down who was stealing the money. He was
scared to come to Flint. He really was scared to come there, 'cause he
knowed if I caught him in there, I wasn't gonna keep nothing hid. So
he never would come there. When they would come there, the amount of
Kotex was gone, that would be the amount of money that was in the machine.
He knowed not to come, and he hated me, oh, that man hated. I told him
one day, "If you don't stop drinking that liquor, if you don't stop
drinking that wine, you don't quit coming out here on the campus getting
drunk, somebody's gonna catch you, and it's gonna be somebody you don't
want to catch you." I said, "If you gonna drink it, drink at home. When
you come out here, leave it home." I said, "Don't come out here to get
drunk." I said, "This ain't no place to get drunk." I said, "This is a
place for education." I said, "You don't know that, long as you been here?"
Some of the janitors over there in the Chemistry Building would get
him and hide him. When they'd see some of the superintendents walking
around, they'd get him and go hide him, lock him up in a room and make
black coffee and give him black coffee, trying to straighten him up.
But all that was-kept under the cover, every bit of it.
Mr. W. W. Green was my first superintendent. When Mr. Green left,
then Mr. Dickinson took it. He was acting superintendent. He made such
a mess out of it, and he wouldn't let Mr. Bass help him. He wanted to be
nasty, and Mr. Bass didn't want him to be that way. He didn't want him
doing nasty things to people. They couldn't agree on nothing. So then they
hired a man named Mr.--what was that man's name? He had open-heart surgery.
He stayed here with us a good while, too. I can't recall it now, but Mr.
Paul Morris was the worst superintendent. He was the worst superintendent
we ever had. He let things go on. I don't know whether he didn't care,
of he didn't know no better or what. Mr. Paul Morris left, I think, a
month or two months ahead of me. He left by about a month and a half
before I retired.
But that retirement party that was given in my honor here at the
museum will be always with me. I know I can say with a clear heart, or
with a honest heart, that I do have more white friends than I do black.
You know why? Because I spent the best of my time amongst the whites.
I spent the best of my time with whites. I wasn't just with them to see
could I make a dollar, something other like that. What I did, I done it
pure.from-my heart. I can say that I never did anybody no wrong.
K: That's wonderful.
H: That's right.
K: It's a good thing to be able to say.
H: It is some professors out here teaching today that I had to brace them
up when they was going in over there in Flint Hall to take the examina-
tion. Dr. CJohn F.] Anderson [Associate Professor of Zoology] over in
Bartram Hall is one of them. I come up the steps in Flint, and he was
just pacing the floor, backwards and forth. I looked at him, you know.
I said, "What eating you?" He said, "I'm fixing to go in there." I
said, "Go in there for what?" He said, "Claudie Mae, you know I'm shaking
to take my final test." I said, "But if you're going in there to take
it, what you doing out here trying to die for, or think or do something?"
I said, "I don't know what you trying to do." I said, "But what you trying
to do ain't no good." I said, "Man, straighten up." He looked at me
and laughed and went on. I said, "Go down there to the basement to the
men's bathroom and wash your face." He said, "Yeah." I said, "Brush
your hair or comb your hair and straighten up that face and come back up
here and let me see how you look. I say and he did. He left, I don't
know what he done, but he left off of that floor and went down the
steps. When he come back, he said, "Now, how do I look?" I said, "Oh,
you look so cute." I said, "Let me tell you one thing." I said, "Don't
you go in there with no blue face." I said, "If you go in there looking
scared, they gonna ask you something they can't answer themselves. You
crazy? You straighten up, stand up and throw your chest out!"
His poor wife was out there in the car. She parked her car 'side
the dumpster. You could see that car move every now and then. She was
in the car having the rickets 'cause he was in there taking an oral.
I told her, "Don't you worry about him." I said, "He will be all right."
I wasn't up there when he come out. I didn't see him till the next day.
When I saw him I said, "Well, I see you're living." I said, "They didn't
kill you in there, did they?" He looked at me and laughed. He said,
"You know one thing?" I said, "What?" He said, "I don't know how I
could have made it if it hadn't been for you. Bless your heart." He
hit me on the back.
K: When did they start this business of taking people around on a bus from
wherever you come to a building to be dropped off to work and then pick
you up? You know, the custodial people on a bus....
H: That just started when Mr. Paul Morris came here.
K: That was one of his ideas?
H: That was under his administration because when you went to a building
you stayed there the whole eight hours. Because if you did your work
right, it would take you them eight hours.
K: But before that, they didn't have anything like that?
H: No. They would take you to your building in the mornings after we had
punched in. We didn't have no bus then. When they moved the physical
plant where it's at now, that is when we went to riding buses. All them
other times we walked from where we punched at to the building we worked.
K: Was there any place anywhere near the campus, when you started
here, that catered to black people, where a black person could
some food, or something?
go to get
K: There were?
K: Where were they?
H: Oh, you mean here on the campus?
K: I'm gonna ask you about the campus in a minute, but I mean off
Was there any place?
H: It was a sanctified preacher,Elder Bishop Williams. He was in some kind
of food. I never did go there. But I do know my husband took one or
two people to him and he would give them a slip to go to the store to
get them some food.
K: Okay, but I mean like a restaurant. Back when you started, when things
were still segregated in Gainesville, were there any restaurants near the
campus where black people who worked on the campus could go?
K: Were there?
H: Yeah; down there to the College Inn.
K: You could go to the College Inn?
H: Yeah; I went there and got many a sandwich.
K: You could...?
H: Didn't nobody warn me.
K: You could just go in there?
H: Go in there and order my hamburger or get what I wanted and come out.
K: Way back when you started?
K: How about on campus? How about the cafeterias?
H: They didn't....
K: They wouldn't serve you?
H: They didn't. Well, one thing, there wasn't no blacks going to school
out here. But we that worked out here could go to there and get us
something to eat.
K: You could?
H: Yes, we could.
K: But not anybody who didn't work...
H: That's right.
K: ...for the university.
H: That's right. They'd get us a button. It was bigger than here, but it
wasn't quite as big around as the top of that glass. But it was a big
one. Our number was on it: we had a number. It had the university
campus on it, the University of Florida. Wherever we went they knowed we
worked here. Sure we could go over to the College Inn or to.the cafeteria
and get us something to eat.
K: When black students finally were allowed to go to school here, did any of
them turn to the black people who were working here sort of for friend-
ship, or just a friendly hello or something? In other words, did you
ever experience anybody like that trying to talk with you maybe because
they were lonely or because they felt isolated?
K: You didn't?
H: No. All them I saw, they thought they was something. They'd come right
out of the classroom and pass right by me. I have got more courtesy from
the white than I ever got from the black. I'm telling you facts; that is
the truth. This one black boy used to work for Dr. Gilbert down here.
He graduated here,I think it was last year sometime. They had him on
T.V. He was about the only one that acted like he had common sense. The
others, I don't know what they thought. I don't know whether they
thought they was more than me or what, but I knowed they wasn't, so
it didn't bother me.
K: I've got one more question I want to ask you. Was there any white person
on campus, faculty person or someone in the administration, who had a
reputation for being very fair and a good person to go to if you, as a
black person, had a problem?
K: Who would that be?
H: I had several I could go to. In my department, if something went on,
I'd always go to Mr. Marvin Bass. He was a man that understood. He's
a man believed in giving people what belonged to them. He won't take
my rights and give them to you. Though they tried to stone him for it, but
it was all right. He left our department and went in the agriculture
department, where he's at now. He was to my house one day last year. He
come by to visit me and my husband. Said he just wanted to see us.
Since he was out that a way he thought he'd come by and see us. I think
that was very nice of him.
K: It certainly was.
H: I ain't had no trouble out of nobody out here. All the trouble there's
ever been, it was the ones in our department trying to run it and not
knowing what they were doing. They was the same as a pack of doodles,
scratching dirt from under each other's feet. It was awful. But God
done moved every one of them. That don't pay. In the building, if
anything bothered me, I'd go to any of them professors. They hear what I
got to say. They'd give me the best advice. That went from the time I
started working out here through them thirty years up until I retired.
K: You were very fortunate.
H: It ain't fortunate, some of it. It's the way you carry yourself.
K: That's true.
H: You can carry yourself in a way where people will like you. You gonna
have some enemies out there. But ain't no harm they can do you because
you got too many friends.
K: Is there anything that you'd like to add about the time that you spent
here at the university that we haven't covered yet?
H: I worked out here for thirty years. I've got two friends out here, not
just mouth, but they are my true friends. I've been retired from here
one or two years. The things that we did before I retired, we still
do today. That's Ruby Williams and Ruby Smith, the two girls that work
in the animal room over here in Bartram Hall. We exchange Christmas gifts,
we exchange birthday gifts. They begs me all the time to come. They wants
to see me. I know Ruby Williams lives to Orange Lake, but Ruby Smith lives
back of me. I can see her when I get ready, but I can't Ruby Williams,
'cause she live way down to Orange Lake, her and her husband. It's nice
to be nice. When you're nice and you show the world that you are nice
not for what you can get, but pure, then you ain't got to worry about the
K: That's right.
H: It'll just automatically come. I came out here last week, and I was out
here about five hours. I didn't get a chance to see those boys that work
up there in the workshop. I called them my boys, you know.
K: RonCald A. Chesser] and Bob [Levy] and...
K: ...those guys up there?
H: Yeah. I told Bob the other day, "You know, Robert, I say you know one
thing." He said, "What?" I said, "You sure look cute." He said, "Why's
that?" I said, "You're clean shaved." He even has his hair cut. I
said, "You look so cute." He just know he looks that way. I said,
"Bless your heart." When the girls first started going to school out
here, it was in, was it '54 or '55? One or the other. But anyhow, when
the girls started going to school, they'd be swaying each other, didn't
want to touch. I come down the stairs at the front of Flint and look out
the window right over them and just see how they act. So one of the
graduate students was swaying down there, acting like the girls. He didn't
want her to touch him,and she was doing the same thing. She was turning
up her nose; he's turning up his. They just kept that mess up until they
had a light riot out here. They had a panty riot. Find the girls' pan-
ties all over the bushes and hedges. Some of the students got suspended,
but they should have just suspended some of the girls, too. This boy
come running up the steps. He run right into me. I said, "Look here,
I want to ask you something." I said, "Do you have any sisters at home?"
He said, "Yeah, Claudie Mae, as a matter of fact I got three." I said,
"You got three sisters?" He said, "Yeah." I said, "Do you do your
sisters like you done that girl down there just a while ago?" He said,
"What?" I said, "Did you sway your shoulders and turn up your nose at your
sisters like you did that girl down there just a while ago?" He said,
"No, they're my sisters." I said, "Well, she's somebody's sister." I
said, "Don't you do that no more." I said, "I know you boys don't want
them girls out here." I said, "I reckon there's a policeman gonna be
running from around these hedges and every which way." He looked at me
and he said, "You know one thing?" He said, "You all of us ma, ain't
you?" I said, "Yeah, I got children all over the world." He said,
"Well, I'm telling you, Claudie Mae, you sure opened my eyes." He said,
"That was right stupid." I said, "That was stupidity." I said, "Don't
do them girls like that." I said, "They're from home just like you are."
I said, "Together we stand, divided we fall." I said, "When you go di-
viding up you'll fall down. You'll get weak." He looked at me and he
just cracked his side laughing.
One boy was a graduate student. He was doing the same thing. One
day I was coming from Anderson Hall, and he was laying out there on the
bench under the tree. He had his head in this girl's lap and she was
playing in his mouth. I went on in the building. I said, "I dare to see
you turn up your nose again." Before I could say anything to him, he
said, "Claudie Mae." I said, "Uh huh." He said, "You know what I'm fixing
to do?" I said, "What?" He said, "I think I'm fixing to marry." I
said, "Sure enough?" He said, "Yeah, I think I'm gonna marry." I said,
"That little blonde that was playing in your mouth out there?" He said,
"When did you see that?" I said, "I saw her." I said, "She was playing
in your mouth out there." I said, "Oh, that didn't do nothing. That didn't
hurt you." But there's two out here on the campus. They ain't here now;
I think the girl is. I don't know whether Jill's teaching here or not.
Jill Jordan [Department of Physiology].
K: I don't know the name, but that doesn't mean she's not here.
H: Jill and her husband. She's known over in the administration building
by the name of Jill Jordan. But she married a graduate student, Donald.
I think the world of both of them. I sure do. Him and her would go out
in the woods in the spring of the year and they'd catch little flying
squirrels and they'd bring them back to Building I. They'd give me a
flying squirrel and it wouldn't be too long before the flying squirrel
would be flying. He'd get up and whoosh. I told them, "Well, the little
flying squirrel is flying this morning. I don't know what tree he's in,
but I ain't got him. They give me several little flying squirrels. Every
time they'd give them to me, I don't know whether they'd run up a sleeve
or what. But when I go to feed them, it wouldn't be long before they'd
be flying. I was really surprised at them.
They got one little girl and named it April. He teaches out here to
Santa Fe CCommunity College]. He's Don Goodman. He's been around here
for ages. Some of them been around here for ages.
Peter Prichard worked for Dr. Archie Carr [Graduate Research Professor
of Zoology and Curator of Biological Sciences, Florida State Museum].
I don't know where that girl's home at where he married. But they got
them a family going. Me and Peter used to have so much fun. I'd see
Peter behind them old green turtles and helping Dr. Carr with them old
green turtles. Dr. Carr got my gopher. He wouldn't let me have it.
H: He told me that his office won't be the same if he give me that gopher.
A graduate student give me that gopher. He was about as wide as my
two fingers, that little baby gopher. I raised him on green lettuce
and now he's that wide. Dr. Carr's begging me to come down there to see
Alice and I won't go. I don't want to see him. He told me last week
when I was out here to quit calling him Alice. Call him Albert, because
it wasn't a girl turtle, it was a he.
K: Well, I want to thank you...
K: ...for all your help.
H: I hope it'll come out.